Getting started growing with hydroponics or indoor growing may seem complex. Trust us, it’s not. The only real difference between growing indoors and standard outdoor gardening is SETUP. This guide will step-by-step teach you how to select the right gear and how to set it up. Once you are setup, it’s easy as.
If you want to get a Starter Kit, to make sure you have everything you need, check out our Complete Grow Kits!
To start growing with hydroponics or indoors, you need 4 key things:
- Grow Area
- Growing Medium
1. Grow Area
To grow indoors, you will need somewhere to do it. A key consideration here is that your grow area will need to be totally light-proof. Totally. As many of the plants grown indoors use the number of hours of light to decide when to flower, even a tiny bit of light coming from outside will confuse them. Additionally, your grow area will need access to letting good air in, and somewhere to vent the stale air out. These holes, however need to be light proof! Most growers use ducting to achieve this — put the ducting through the hole, make sure there are a few curves in the ducting, and you will be fine.
Popular growing spaces include basements, closets, and spare bedrooms. The easiest way to get started is with a pre-made grow tent! These come completely sealed, lightproof, and with vents perfectly positioned to allow air in and out. Putting one of these in your spare bedroom or garage is an easy way to get started quickly.
2. Grow Lights
Plants need 3 things to grow, Light, Water, and Food. As you will be growing indoors, you no longer have the sun as a light source and so you must replace it with electrical lighting. Your standard household light bulbs will not work and there are generally three options to go with.
High Intensity Diode (HID) are the most powerful indoor grow lights, produce the most yield, and are the choice for most growers looking to grow in a 1m2-sized space or larger. These lights require an external “ballast” to help power the bulb and create significant heat meaning that you need a decent ventilation setup to keep your temperatures at the right levels. You will also need a reflector to hold the bulb and project light down on your plants.
HID Lights are measured by watts of output. More watts indicates a more powerful light. HID lights come in 400w, 600w, and 1000w varieties and for each setup you will need a ballast and bulb of the same wattage. The limiting factor of how powerful of an HID light you can use is the size of your growing area as too powerful of a light will overheat the space and kill your plants (or even start a fire — so be careful). Start with how big of an area you have to grow in and then choose the HID light that is appropriate for your area.
Please note that the dimensions listed above are recommended minimums. i.e. if your grow room is 1.3m x 1.3m you should still go with a 600w HID light.
You should select the right sized ballast and reflector for your grow area. Many growers use a combined reflector/cooltube which allows you to put the light closer to your plants, giving them more energy.
There are two types of bulbs you can run in your HID setup, HPS (high pressure sodium) and MH (metal halide). HPS bulbs are best for the flowering stage of your plants’ life while MH are best for the vegetative stage. Most growers will start their plants under a MH bulb and switch to a HPS bulb when they are ready to start flowering.
For growers wanting a cheaper way to start, have a very small space to grow in, or who aren’t worried about getting huge yield, CFL lights are a good option. Also, many growers use CFLs for seedlings and clones as these plants don’t yet require powerful lights. CFLs are much less powerful than HID but don’t put out anywhere near as much heat which means they can be used in small spaces.
LED lights can put out a very high amount of power with less heat than HID lights. However, they are still very expensive. If you want BIG yield, in a small space, these might be the best option.
It is important to keep the air in your grow-space moving for two reasons. One is that your plants need to breathe fresh air and the other is to keep temperature and humidity down. Growers use heavy duty duct fans and ducting to suck the air out of their grow spaces.
In addition it is important to keep the air moving in the growing area. For this growers use small clip fans to keep their plants moving like there is a breeze.
It is highly recommended that you use a carbon filter to remove any unwanted smells from the air coming out of your growing space. Some types of plants can smell very strongly and you will not want the odors bothering family, friends, neighbours, or visitors. These filters are large and attach to the end of the ducting. The best way to set them up is to place the filter in your grow space and suck the air through the filter and outside.
Carbon Filter > Ducting > Extractor Fan > Ducting > Window
4. Growing Medium
Your plants also need something to grow in! While hydroponics systems are great and can lead to much faster growth, most growers begin by growing in soil. Soil is easy and much more forgiving than hydroponics systems and, as this is a getting started guide, soil is exactly what we recommend you start with. Choose a high-quality soil and you’ll be fine.